Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

I don’t subscribe to the Hollywood notion that all you need to cure a crippling illness that affects the lives of your loved ones is a good girlfriend or boyfriend. In actuality, it takes almost a decade or two to cure a crippling mental illness. In that regard, “Silver Linings Playbook” fails. But as a film that seeks to be a unique and unusual romance comedy about two people that are anything but normal, director David O. Russell’s dramedy is pure excellence, and one that’s teeming with talent from minute one. “Silver Linings Playbook” doesn’t seem to rely on a strict formula per se, and that’s why it’s such an oddity in the realm of romance dramedies. Sure, in the end it’s about two people falling in love, but O. Russell spends time on focusing on their inadequacies and their malfunctions that make it impossible for the pair to function in reality, and then draw them closer and closer as the narrative unfolds.

“Silver Linings Playbook” thankfully doesn’t adhere to the romance dramedy clichés that normal pabulum find it necessary to. O. Russell is very concerned with exploring the characters that surround the world of main character Pat, and how they add to his feelings of vulnerability and his mental instability. Though we’re told Pat is often unstable and fighting a brutal sickness, the people around Pat are just as warped and unusual as he tends to be. They’re just better at hiding it. Pat’s father spends most of his time following unusual rituals to win football games, while his mom Dolores is endures her son’s manipulation with the delusion that cooking and cleaning fixes literally any problem Pat doles out. Being released from a mental facility after nearly killing the man who was sleeping with his wife, Pat makes the declaration of getting his life together to win her back. The hows and whys are always fuzzy and Bradley Cooper is able to embody this uneasy state of mental being that makes Pat an interesting but frustrating character.

Pat is a man haunted by the day where he discovered his unfaithful wife, and that leaves the door open for horrible emotional outbursts. Robert DeNiro gives an incredible performance as Pat’s put upon father who tolerates his son as best as he can, while aiming for his own personal goals reliant on the outcomes of football and baseball games. When Pat first lays eyes on Tiffany, he not only finds a kindred spirit, but a person who seemingly hasn’t decided to give up knowing him just yet. There’s just something unusual about Pat’s ability to speak his mind that fascinates Tiffany, and soon enough she insists on following Pat around to discover if he’s truly as genuine and outspoken as he seems to be when they first meet over an awkward blind dinner date. Jennifer Lawrence is pure excellence as the young Tiffany who has seemingly seen and done everything imaginable, and never quite lets on to how that’s soured her. She declares herself proud of her flaws and cracks, and it begins to spread to Pat, who begins to learn how to confront and conquer his mental illness thanks to Tiffany who feels a bond with Pat when he opens up about his life and his somewhat underhanded goals to win back his ex-wife.

Lawrence personifies this young vivacious woman with the soul of a crusty fifty year old woman who really ha a difficult time trusting anyone in her life. She spends most of her time alienating her well meaning but overbearing older sister (Julia Stiles in a welcome walk on role), but is anxious for some form of human affection. Tiffany is a lost individual very much like Pat, and the relationship and bond between the pair as they help guide each other on a path to some form of sanity or structure for normality is entertaining and gut wrenching. O. Russell really does offer an off the wall movie about falling in love with the right person at a turbulent time and it’s the perfect antidote to the soapy hogwash currently infesting theaters. Director David O. Russell forms a unique and incredible romance dramedy, with an exceptional cast of all stars, and a foursome of superb respective performances that turn “Silver Linings Playbook” in to a rich and near perfect slice of life.